The Skinny Showcase: Kevin Harman

Gallery | 04 Jul 2008

Kevin Harman has constructed a practice for himself which endeavours to remove art from the traditional gallery context, using guerrilla-style tactics to create works which encourage the engagement of the general public in defiance of the traditional elitism of the contemporary art scene. His much-discussed degree show at ECA featured a collection of doormats harvested from the front doors of Bruntsfield stairwells, covertly removed by the artist and replaced with a note informing the owners that their possessions had been merely borrowed, and instructing them to talk to their neighbours to learn more of their plight. In so doing, Kevin hoped to encourage communication between the typically aloof strangers of the Edinburgh stairwells. Later, he issued invitations to a soiree in the Sculpture Court, an opportunity for all the injured parties to come and view their relocated possessions, and to share their grievances and (hopefully) socialise with their neighbours. Naturally, his action has created some level of controversy and indeed necessitated the hiring of a lawyer. He promises to return them though, so that's ok. Next up for Kevin is a trip to Romania and Poland on the Richard Demarco Travel Scholarship to continue with another branch of his practice, the Skip Art project. For this series of works Kevin has taken his practice into the street, staging weekend-long interventions in skips, removing their contents under cover of darkness and replacing them in a new, aesthetically pleasing formation.

He sums up his process succinctly thus:


Select a skip


Empty the skip


Clean materials and inside of skip


Meticulously put back all contents, in a beautiful structure


Have opening


The ‘opening’ is a semi-impromptu event in the street beside the skip, booze provided and guests invited at random from passersby over the course of the installation. Apparently the reactions of the workmen on the Monday morning are priceless, although this is something which Kevin chooses to keep for himself, so it remains undocumented. In all, Kevin's work presents a joyful engagement with the fabric of daily life, and an impulse to make things a little bit better in whatever small way possible. By leaving the gallery context and taking his work into the street, he flouts contemporary convention while offering an attempt at democratisation. Interaction and intervention are the key words here, with the reactions of the viewers becoming integral parts of the finished "piece". These guerilla tactics could occur at any time, so for the chance to interact, keep a closer eye on your surroundings.